Worker coops, mutualism vs. communism

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EdmontonWobbly's picture
EdmontonWobbly
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Dec 5 2007 22:36
Worker coops, mutualism vs. communism

Can anyone recomend some good reading on the limits of worker coops. I have a friend who is looking for some stuff, aside from my dogmatic communist ranting. Any suggestions?

Mike Harman
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Dec 5 2007 22:41

Haven't read it, but this is supposed to be a classic on self-management within capitalism (and it emerged from a strike/occupation, not a co-op though, I dunno if that helps or not): http://libcom.org/library/lip-and-the-self-managed-counter-revolution-negation

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EdmontonWobbly
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Dec 5 2007 22:59

Ahh yes I downloaded that, it looked long and not terribly engaging but maybe I should give it a chance.

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EdmontonWobbly
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Dec 5 2007 23:10

Actually you know I really should read it, the context the friend is coming out of is the occupied factory movement in Argentina. Thanks catch.

mikus
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Dec 6 2007 00:38

I read that text a long time ago but had no idea what it was trying to say. I don't know if that's my fault or the text's. I suspect it was needlessly complicated. If I remember correctly it rambles on about the rising organic composition for quite some time, in a context in which it's not clear to me how it's at all relevant.

booeyschewy
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Dec 6 2007 05:20

I have to say I've stumbled upon mutualist stuff recently and I'm amazed at how much there is out there. There are all these proudhonist anarcho-capitalists (some syndicalists) that argue for mutualism. I'm amazed they exist in numbers enough to have forums and the like. That's all

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Chilli Sauce
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Dec 6 2007 05:47

If you're interested in argentina, I found this aufheben article to have the most in terms of analysis of recovered factory movement

http://libcom.org/library/argentina-aufheben-11

Not to 'toot my own horn' but I just finished quite a large presentation on argentina (with a specific section on the recovered factories, a critique under 'the future' section) if you want to check it out. If nothing else, it'll have some good suggestions for further reading

http://wikis.lib.ncsu.edu/index.php/Neoliberalism_and_Social_Revolution_in_Argentina

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EdmontonWobbly
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Dec 6 2007 05:57

NCwob I'd be thrilled to read your piece, I'll give it a gander in the next couple days.

afraser
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Dec 7 2007 00:29

Myth of Mondragon

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EdmontonWobbly
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Dec 7 2007 00:58

Bingo! That is exactly what I was looking for, thanks afraser!

petey
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Dec 7 2007 03:11
booeyschewy wrote:
I have to say I've stumbled upon mutualist stuff recently and I'm amazed at how much there is out there. There are all these proudhonist anarcho-capitalists (some syndicalists) that argue for mutualism. I'm amazed they exist in numbers enough to have forums and the like. That's all

did you see this?
http://libcom.org/forums/iww-right-libertariananarcho-capitalistswhatever-17112007

and this?
http://all-left.net/

Anarcho
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Dec 7 2007 10:41
booeyschewy wrote:
I have to say I've stumbled upon mutualist stuff recently and I'm amazed at how much there is out there. There are all these proudhonist anarcho-capitalists (some syndicalists) that argue for mutualism. I'm amazed they exist in numbers enough to have forums and the like. That's all

Arrrgh! The term "proudhonist anarcho-capitalists" is a total contradiction. Proudhon was a socialist, as recognised by Marx, Bakunin, Kropotkin and many, many others.

The idea of co-operatives exchanging their goods on a market may be flawed but it is not "capitalism" unless you equate "capitalism" with "the market"! So mutualism is not "anarcho"-capitalism. If you read Rothbard, for example, he was quite clear that it was a form of socialism and, moreover, he stressed that the corporation would be the dominant form of economic organisation in his system of private states.

Now, please, do not make it any easier for these muppets (the "anarcho"-capitalists) by claiming that mutualism is a form of capitalism. It is not. Hell, even Marx had to admit that a market system of co-operatives was not capitalism as the workers owned their own means of production and, consequently, there was not wage labour and not capital.

Of course, markets have their problems and such a market syndicalist system would reflect these. But, please, do not make the mistake of equating the market with capitalism. Capitalism is the market plus wage labour, i.e. hierarchy in the workplace. Mutualism is not the same as it is based on workplace associations and workers' self-management.

There is some discussion of the limitations of worker co-ops in An Anarchist FAQ -- see section I.1.3 (I think), plus section I.3/I.4. Also there is something in J.5. Unfortunately, these have not been revised for publication yet...

capricorn
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Dec 7 2007 13:56

I can't see how anyone can say Proudhon was a "socialist", a critic of capitalism yes, but a socialist no. He stood for a society where workers, whether working on their own or in producer cooperatives, would produce and exchange their products without any state intereference, being mutually bound together solely by money and the market, ie the cash nexus. This is also the ideal of the so-called "anarcho-capitalists", the difference being that they see contracting to work for wages as acceptable too. Clearly, Proudhon has more in common with them than with socialists and communists like Kropotkin who want to end the cash nexus and the domination of market forces. And of course under his mutualist scheme market forces would dominate production: there would be competition between rival suppliers of the same market and the exchange value of a product would be determined by the average amount of time taken to produce it, with less efficient individual producers and cooperatives (ie those who took above average time to make a product) being under pressure to work harder to beat off the competition and stay in business. At the time he was writing (mid-19th century in France) when production was still relatively small-scale compared with today, his scheme might have seemed plausible and did seem to have some support amongst artisans and craftsmen in Paris, but today it makes no sense at all (unless, like some Greens, you want to go back to small-scale production). Today, only communism -- common ownership of the already socialised and collectively-operated productive forces and the break with trying to link consumption to productive effort expressed by "from each according to ability, to each according to needs" -- makes sense. Only on such a basis can market forces cease to operate, indeed to exist, and person-to-person relations take the place of the cash nexus.
Sorry, in this, the mutualists and the anarcho-capitalists stand on the same side faced with the communists.

Carousel
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Dec 7 2007 17:49
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the cash nexus

Cast iron point. No one can explain why it's bad though.

capricorn
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Dec 7 2007 19:13

What's wrong with the cash nexus! A lot. Basically it reduces the relations between humans to being just money ones. People become isolated social atoms who merely collide on the market place as buyers and sellers of something, the link between them being money, cold cash. There is no other social bond between them except this. Human relations and human values come to take second place to monetary and commercial values.
But it doesn't surprise me that an individualist anarchist should see nothing wrong with this because, like the Marxists say, such anarchists are merely another expression of bourgeois possessive individualism. They do see humans as isolated social atoms linked by means of voluntarily entered-into contracts on an exchange of equals basis.
As a libertarian communist (not that there's really any other kind) I've nothing in common with such people even if they do want to abolish state. After all, so do the anarcho-capitalists.

mikus
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Dec 7 2007 19:32

Double post.

mikus
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Dec 7 2007 19:42

I agree with Capricorn that it's a mistake to say that Proudhon was unambiguously a socialist. I also think Anarcho is wrong that Marx recognized Proudhon as a socialist. He did refer to "Proudhon's socialism" at times, but much of Marx's critique of Proudhon is based on his claim that Proudhon's ideal society is in fact nothing more than the ideal society of the ideologues of capitalism (i.e. the political economists), and that Proudhon imagines that capitalism can be abolished on the basis of its own laws ("equal exchange", "competition", etc.). So Marx was in fact providing an argument as to why Proudhon was not a socialist, but an advocate of some impossible petty-bourgeois form of capitalism whose only existence only form of existence had ever been in the minds of the political economists.

In the third chapter of Capital, Vol. 1, footnote 1, Marx praises Owen, and is clearly aiming his criticism at the Proudhonists:

"Owen pre-supposes directly associated labour, a form of production that is entirely inconsistent with the production of commodities. The certificate of labour is merely evidence of the part taken by the individual in the common labour, and of his right to a certain portion of the common produce destined for consumption. But it never enters into Owen’s head to pre-suppose the production of commodities, and at the same time, by juggling with money, to try to evade the necessary conditions of that production."

So no, Marx did not regard Proudhon as any than a pseudo-socialistic utopian.

Also, Marx was not nearly as unequivocally supportive of workers coops as you imply, or at least he did not think they were non-capitalist in the way that you imply. Marx liked them largely because they showed that production could indeed be organized by the workers themselves without a separate management, and that in some cases these economic units were as efficient as normal capitalist ones. (I don't know whether or not this argument holds true today, I suspect that it doesn't, but Marx provided some evidence in Vol. 3 of Capital that worker's coops had survived quite a few crashes where normal capitalist enterprises didn't, and that they were thus economically competitive.) But Marx also refers to workers acting as their own capitalists and exploiting themselves and also consuming a part of the surplus-value they extracted from themselves when they form coops in the context of the capitalist mode of production. This is because Marx saw the function of the coops to be basically similar, if not identical, to normal capitalist enterprises -- namely, to accumulate capital, rather than to produce for human need.

Mike

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Dec 7 2007 19:44
Quote:
Marx liked them largely because they showed that production could indeed be organized by the workers themselves without a separate management, and that in some cases these economic units were as efficient as normal capitalist ones. (I don't know whether or not this argument holds true now, I suspect that it doesn't

Actually there are quite a few studies purporting to show that worker cooperatives are more productive and efficient than capitalist enterprises. Here are a few references:

Bartlett, Will and John Cable, Saul Estrin, Derek Jones, and Stephen Smith (1992), “Labor-managed cooperatives and private firms in North Central Italy: an empirical comparison,” Industrial and Labor Relations Review v. 46, no. 1 (Oct.) pp. 103-118.
Bellas, Carl (1972), Industrial Democracy and the Worker-Owned Firm: A Study of Twenty-One Plywood Companies in the Pacific Northwest (New York: Praeger).
Berman, K. V. (1967), Worker-Owned Plywood Companies (Pullman, Washington: Washington State University).
Bernstein, Paul (1976), Workplace Democratization: Its Internal Dynamics (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press).
Blasi, Joseph and Michael Conte, Douglas Kruse (1996), “Employee Ownership and Corporate Performance Among Public Corporations,” Industrial and Labor Relations Review v. 50, no. 1 (October) pp. 60-79.
Bonin, J. P. and D. C. Jones, and L. Putterman (1993), “THEORETICAL AND EMPIRICAL-STUDIES OF PRODUCER COOPERATIVES - WILL EVER THE TWAIN MEET,” JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC LITERATURE v. 31, no. 3 (Sept.) pp. 1290-1320.
Cable, John and and F. Fitzroy (1980), “Productivity, Efficiency, Incentives and Employee Participation,” Kyklos v. 33, pp. 100-121.
Craig, Ben and John Pencavel (1992), “The Behavior of Worker Cooperatives: The Plywood Companies of the Pacific Northwest,” American Economic Review v. 82, no. 5 (Dec) pp. 1083-1105.
Craig, Ben and John Pencavel (1993), “The Objectives of Worker Cooperatives,” Journal of Comparative Economics v. 17, pp. 288-308.
Craig, Ben and John Pencavel (1995), “Participation and productivity: A comparison of worker cooperatives and conventional firms in the plywood industry,” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, p. 121.
Craig, Ben and John Pencavel (1994), “The Empricial Perfomance of Orthodox Models of the Firm: conventional firms and worker cooperatives,” Journal of Political Economy v. 104, no. 4 (Auf) pp. 718-744.
Defourney, J. S. and Saul Estrin and Derek Jones (1985), “The Effects of Workers' Participation on Enterprise Performance: Empirical Evidence from French Cooperatives,” International Journal of Industrial Organization v. 3, pp. 197-217.
Defourny, J. S. (1992), “Comparative Measures of Technical Efficiency for Five Hundred French Workers' Cooperatives,” Advances in the Economic Analysis of Participatory and Labor Managed Firms edited by Derek Jones and Jan Svejnar (Greenwich, Conn: JAI press) pp. 27-62.
Doucouliagos, Chris (1995), “Worker Participation and Productivity in Labor-Managed and Participatory Capitalist Firms: A Meta-analysis,” Industrial and Labor Relations Review v. 49, no. 1 (Oct) pp. 58-77.
Estrin, Saul and Derek Jones (1992), “The Viability of Employee-Owned Firms: Evidence from France,” Industrial & Labor Relations Review v. 45, no. 2 (January) pp. 323-338.
Jones, Derek and D. Backus (1977), “British Producer Cooperatives in the Footwear Industry: An Empirical Evaluation of the Theory of Financing,” Economic Journal v. 87, pp. 488-510.
Jones, Derek (1985), “The Cooperative Sector and Dualism in Command Economies: Theory and Evidence for the Case of Poland,” Advances in the Economics of Participatory and Labor-Managed Firms v. 1, pp. 195-218.
Mygind, Niels (1987), “Are Self-Managed Firms Efficient? The Experience of Danish Fully and Partly Self-Managed Firms,” Advances in the Economics of Participatory and Self-Managed Firms edited by D. Jones & J. Svejnar (Greenwich, Conn: JAI Press) pp. 243-323.
Perotin, Virginie (1987), “Conditions of Survival and Closure of French Worker Cooperatives: Some Preliminary Findings,” Advances in the Economic Analysis of Participatory and Labor-Managed Firms edited by D. C. Jones and J. Svejnar (Greenwich, Conn: JAI Press) pp. 201-224.

I have some of these in pdf format, so I could pm them to you if you want proof (and if libcom allows one to send attatchments with private messages)

mikus
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Dec 7 2007 19:57

Libcom does not allow attachments in private messages. Please PM me though anyway and I'll give you my e-mail address. I will look through them and see if there are any of particular interest.

Thanks much for the info.

Carousel
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Dec 7 2007 20:16
Quote:
Basically it reduces the relations between humans to being just money ones.

And this is so bad because? A little atomisation can be a bit of a turn on.

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such anarchists are merely another expression of bourgeois possessive individualism

Communism is merely another expression of bourgeois possessive individualism.

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sam sanchez
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Dec 7 2007 22:46

Your mum is just another expression of bourgeois possessive individualism.

petey
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Dec 7 2007 23:20
sam sanchez wrote:
I have some of these in pdf format, so I could pm them to you if you want proof (and if libcom allows one to send attatchments with private messages)

i'd love to see some of those, i'll PM you.

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Dec 8 2007 00:38
capricorn wrote:
What's wrong with the cash nexus! A lot. Basically it reduces the relations between humans to being just money ones. People become isolated social atoms who merely collide on the market place as buyers and sellers of something, the link between them being money, cold cash. There is no other social bond between them except this. Human relations and human values come to take second place to monetary and commercial values.
But it doesn't surprise me that an individualist anarchist should see nothing wrong with this because, like the Marxists say, such anarchists are merely another expression of bourgeois possessive individualism. They do see humans as isolated social atoms linked by means of voluntarily entered-into contracts on an exchange of equals basis.
As a libertarian communist (not that there's really any other kind) I've nothing in common with such people even if they do want to abolish state. After all, so do the anarcho-capitalists.

Capricorn lays it down. I have to comment tho, in my experience many anarcho capitalist don't really want to abolish the state. When you really press them on the issue, they just want the state to be reduced to its most basic security functions. And, even when they claim they do want the state abolished, they want the roles of the state---protecting capitalist enterprise--privatized. Uhh, a company town on steroids

Anybody, feel free to jump in on this thread as well:
http://libcom.org/forums/iww-right-libertariananarcho-capitalistswhatever-17112007

capricorn
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Dec 8 2007 07:07
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in my experience many anarcho capitalist don't really want to abolish the state. When you really press them on the issue, they just want the state to be reduced to its most basic security functions. And, even when they claim they do want the state abolished, they want the roles of the state ---protecting capitalist enterprise--privatized

I agree, and I think that they're right to think that a market economy could not exist without some minimal state -- to define and protect property rights (even of cooperatives), enact commercial law (to regulate and settle disputes even between cooperatives)and issue the currency. This of course is recognised by non-anarchist marketeers such as Sam and his "parecon" blueprint (even if it does provide for the privatization of the central planning authority). In imaging that a fully anarchist market society is possible Proudhon and the latter-day mutualists are just dreaming.

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sam sanchez
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Dec 8 2007 11:57

Non-anarchist marketeer? Its strange what a journey of self discovery libcom can be. I never knew I was a "non-anarchist marketeer".

Look, as far as I see it, anarchism is about replacing hierarchical structures with horizontal ones, and a co-operative economy with a directly democratic polity fits the bill. So how am I not an anarchist exactly?

(I assume you were referring to me, since no other Sam has posted on this topic, to my knowledge)

Carousel
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Dec 8 2007 14:32
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many anarcho capitalist don't really want to abolish the state

Even a federation of neighbourhood assemblies is a “state” to anyone with a bit of common sense.

Carousel
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Dec 8 2007 14:32

<DP - dodgy mouse button>

petey
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Dec 8 2007 16:53

yup

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sam sanchez
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Dec 8 2007 20:21
Carousel wrote:
Quote:
many anarcho capitalist don't really want to abolish the state

Even a federation of neighbourhood assemblies is a “state” to anyone with a bit of common sense.

Some of the defining features of a state are:

a) the division of people into rulers and ruled
b) non-voluntary
c) monopoly of force

Now, if you are willing to use the term state to mean any political system or system of collective decision making, then sure, a federation of communes is a state. But then you obscure the very real difference between different polities.

A federation of directly democratic polities does not split the population into a group of rulers and the rest who are ruled. It does not create an institution or group with a monopoly of force, since everybody is involved, or has the right and power to be, at least. Most anarchists think that these communes would be voluntary, with non-cooperators being left alone on as much land as they can utilise without wage labour.

If I have a meeting with my neighbours to decide on some action, is that a state? No. So why is it a state if these meetings confederate?

See I.5.5 Aren't participatory communities and confederations just new states?

In the words of Errico Malatesta, "government by everybody is no longer government in the authoritarian, historical and practical sense of the word." If everyone is the government, then there will be no institution seperate from the rest of society that one can call "the government".

Harold Barclay puts it well: "The ruling group in any state tends to be a specialised and priveleged body seperate by its formation, status and organisation from the population as a whole. The group collectively monopolises political decision. In some polities it may constitute an entrenched and self-perpetuating class. In other more open systems such as a democracy, there is a greater circulation of membership of the ruling group... this obscures the division between rulers and ruled. With the state there is always a hierarchical and status difference between rulers and ruled. Even if its a democracy, where we suppose that those who rule today are not rulers tomorrow, only a tiny minority will ever have the opportunity to rule."

If everyone is involved in decisions, or at least has the right, time and ability to be, then where is the ruling group that monopolises decision making? It does not exist, so there is no state.

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Chilli Sauce
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Dec 8 2007 21:50

I am going to have to agree with Sam on that last post.

Carousel
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Dec 9 2007 02:47
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a) the division of people into rulers and ruled
b) non-voluntary
c) monopoly of force

Love it. I'm high. But I'm thinking...
1. Set Territory to Sequest
2. Implement territorial self-sufficiency in agriculture and energy
3. Form majority party for a programme of changing the law to abolish tax and establish neighbourhood control over the creation and distribution of money and the making and repeal of law.
3. Secure the cooperation of the armed forces and police should the party be elected to power
4. Secure the cooperation of the armed forces of foreign countries should the party be elected to power
5. Elect party
6. Implement programme.
7. Smell the roses.